The Association of Retired Conservationists was organized by a group of retirees from the Wisconsin Conservation Department in the 1960's. By the mid-1970's, the WCD had been combined with the Department of Resource Development to form the Department of Natural Resources, and the retirees group had grown significantly, met monthly for lunch and began inviting speakers to address the group on issues of interest to the members. Today, the organization has more than two hundred members.

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What's New in 2021?

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January Meeting guest speaker Mary Jean Huston notes.

"We suggest that interested WARC members contact the Governor, their Senator and Assembly Representative to request that the Stewardship Program be reauthorized for 10 years at the funding level of $50 Million/year.

There was a question about the urgency and timing to submit comments in support of a strong Stewardship Program. My Nature Conservancy colleagues say the earlier, the better. Governor Evers will present his proposed State Budget in mid-February this year. This starts the biennial budget process. We expect Stewardship reauthorization will be in the Governor's budget. There will be public hearings (not sure how those will be done in Covid era) with opportunities for citizens to testify. The Joint Finance Committee will go through the budget piece by piece, and Stewardship will be considered and discussed then. This process can take months, and needs to be completed in time for the new state fiscal year which begins July 1, 2021.

Following are resources to help you contact Wisconsin's elected leaders to voice your support for reauthorizing the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. Thank you for your commitment to conservation in our great state!"

--Mary Jean Huston

It was suggested in our discussion that if individuals send personalized messages to the Governor and their senator and representative, that they mention a property they enjoy that has been protected by the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund.

Here is a source of information, supplied by Dick Steffes, showing many of the major Stewardship Fund purchases by DNR: DNR Stewardship Purchases

The following link is to a comprehensive atlas created by the DNR last year. In the legend you will see that it delineates DNR lands protected with Stewardship, conservation easements protected with Stewardship, and lands conserved by local government and non-governmental organizations using Stewardship Funds: Public Access Lands

You may use The Nature Conservancy's website to submit a prepared message that will be sent to the Governor, your senator and representative:

Alternatively, to contact Governor Evers, you can fill out a comments section at this website:

To determine who your State Senator and Assembly Representative are, use this link, and put your address in the search box on the upper right corner. Information on your senator and assembly representative will appear, with their phone numbers and email addresses:

You can also call the toll-free legislative hotline at (800) 362-9472.

Go here for more TNC information regarding the program TNC Fact Sheet, Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund

Go here for more DNR information regarding the program Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program

In additon to the above recommended actions, ARC members on the January teleconference voted to send Governor Evers a letter endorsing renewal of funding for the program.

Below is the letter Laurel developed.

RE: Urging full reauthorization of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program

Dear Governor Evers:

I am writing on behalf of the Wisconsin Association of Retired Conservationists (WARC) to urge you to support fully reauthorizing the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. At its January 13, 2021 on-line meeting, members voted unanimously to endorse and support reauthorizing the Stewardship Program for 10 years at the funding level of $50 million per year.

We feel it is critical that we voice our support now so that reauthorization can be included in your proposed state budget next month. We also plan to voice our support to members of the Joint Finance Committee.

The value of Stewardship is unquestionable. State recreational lands like Waukesha County’s Rainbow Springs, the Lower Wisconsin Riverway, Polk County’s Straight Lake Wildlife Area and Park, Oneida and Vilas county’s Rainbow Flowage, the Peshtigo River State Forest, Governor Tommy Thompson’s “Great Addition” in Vilas, Oneida, Lincoln and Iron counties, the Dells of Wisconsin State Natural Area, the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage in Iron County, and countless more riverways, boat launches, local parks, wildlife and natural areas and state park lands were ALL made possible by Stewardship and are the cornerstone of Wisconsin’s great tourism industry. Forest Legacy easements funded by Stewardship have opened more than 250,000 acres of forestlands to public recreation while keeping them in production to fuel Wisconsin’s thriving forest industry. Stewardship lands and easements offer groundwater and flood protection and assure clean state waters by preserving forests, wetlands and grasslands that filter out pollutants. Protecting Wisconsin’s clean water for the future will undoubtedly give the state the competitive edge among states in the future. And Stewardship grants and partnerships with county and local governments have made recreational opportunities available close to home for people all across our state. Data indicate parks and lands have seen increasing public use as people deal with social distancing and recreating during Covid-19.

Every outdoor activity in our state – snowmobiling, ATVing and hiking (through Stewardship’s rails to trails efforts), camping, fishing, hunting, and just plain getting out to experience the natural world – has benefitted from Stewardship. The public is loving to death the recreational properties available to them now with places like Devil’s Lake State Park struggling to keep up with heavy use, and demand for outdoor recreation opportunities will only continue to grow. Each year, 2.9 million people participate in hunting, fishing and wildlife watching in Wisconsin, contributing $3.9 billion to the state economy.

Stewardship is a forward-looking program that can assure the rich recreational opportunities for which Wisconsin is famous can keep up with the needs of future generations. Most people cannot afford recreational land, and as Wisconsin becomes more and more urbanized, we can expect available land prices to only increase.

Now in our 60th year, the Wisconsin Association of Retired Conservationists is an organization of retirees from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S Soil Conservation Service. Our goal is to support programs and objectives which are beneficial to sound management of our state’s natural resources.

For 30 years, the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund has been successful at preserving lands and at leveraging federal and private funds to protect our lakes and streams, secure critical wildlife habitat, grow strong forests and provide world class recreation opportunities. It is the mechanism by which our state has been able to preserve fragile remnants of wild Wisconsin, grow healthy wildlife and fish populations and enhance the quality of life of our citizens now and in the future.

Our more than 260 WARC members ask you to make sure the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is a priority in the state budget, and that it is reauthorized for 10 years starting in 2022 at $50 million per year. Thank you for your consideration.


Laurel F. Steffes, President
Wisconsin Association of Retired Conservationists

Paske, Phillip A. 'Phil'

Phillip Paske, age 92, of Pembine, passed away at home on Tuesday January 12, 2021. He was born in Portage, WI on October 4, 1928; son of the late Albert and Lucille (Koppe) Paske. Phil graduated from Portage High School in 1946. He honorably served his country in the Army from 1950 until 1952. Phil started working as a DNR Officer in Portage area before moving to Pembine in 1957, where he met the love of his life, the former Clara Joyce Stevens. The couple was united in marriage on December 7, 1958.

In 1970 the couple moved to Wautoma and then in 1974 to Tomahawk for the next 20 years before retiring back in Pembine. Although they never had their own children, they had many foster children that they cared for. Phil enjoyed sturgeon fishing, loved gardening, deer hunting and bee keeping. He was a charter member of the local Rescue Squad and Fire Department and was a Board member of Grace Lutheran Church and taught Sunday School as well.

Phil is survived by his loving wife of 62 years Joyce; four nephews and a niece: David (Nancy) Paske, John Paske, Julie (Edward) Collins, Jeff (Debra Melvin) Emery, and Joel (Beth Siebers) Emery; great niece, Layne (Jim) Locke; brother, Milton Paske; and special daughter, Randee (Jordan) Cottam. He was preceded in death by his sister, Jean Stovall.

Visitation for Phil will be held at Roubal Funeral Home on Monday January 18, 2021 from 10:00 am until time of his service at 11:00 am. with full Military Honors provided by Pembine American Legion Post #461. Rev. Dwaine Sutherland will officiate. Burial will be in Pembine Cemetery this spring.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Grace Lutheran Church in Pembine.

Roubal Funeral Home of Wausaukee is assisting Phillip’s family.

Visitation: Monday Jan 18, 2021, 10:00a.m. until 11:00a.m. at the Roubal Funeral Home

Funeral Service: Monday Jan 18, 2021, 11:00a.m. at the Roubal Funeral Home

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